Closed systems are governed by the second law of thermodynamics and cannot spontaneously become more ordered. In open physical systems exposed to external energy flows, additional macroscopic degrees of freedom (“memory cells”) emerge, their number increasing with an increase in the flow and orderliness of the external energy. Biological systems are characterized by molecular degrees of freedom, the density of which is more than twenty orders of magnitude higher than that of macroscopic degrees of freedom in any open physical system exposed to the same external energy flow. This indicates that the self-organization of physical systems in external energy flows and the self-organization and evolution of living systems are fundamentally different. Thus, although life is an open system, the energy (food) flows that it consumes and all other external factors affecting life are so poorly ordered, compared to life itself, that they cannot increase the degree of order in the latter. Therefore, living systems obey an analogue of the second law of thermodynamics: within periods of time considerably shorter than the duration of evolutionary changes, living systems can only lose the accumulated information (i.e., the entropy can only increase), even if the systems consume external energy–food flows.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 13, 2004
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